The Forest Stewardship Council
A forester marks a tree for harvest. How does she choose? Does she only consider that tree and its contribution to this period's profit? Or, does she also consider the forest and its contribution to the future?
I have worked in the woods of East Texas and Arkansas and have seen the difference between these approaches, the difference between mining and stewardship. It is not necessary to despoil a forest to harvest wood. It is possible to harvest wood from a forest continuously while ever improving its health and yield. It is possible — and from my perspective as a citizen, furniture maker, woodsman, and aerobic organism — imperative. A healthy forest has many species, plant and animal, many ages, stable waterways, and sustains communities with a steady, reliable harvest of wood and other products.
Photo by permission of The Collins Company.
In 1993, a group of industry, community, and environmental groups from 25 countries founded an organization: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)®. The Council developed standards for managing healthy forests and a system to verify to people that the wood they buy comes from healthy, well-managed forests.
The Council, in its Principles and Criteria, defined responsible forestry anywhere on the earth — tropical, temperate, or boreal. The Principles and Criteria address ecological, social, and economic aspects of forest management. Using this document, regional working groups, working under national committees, establish standards for the type of forest in their area. For example, in the U.S. the standards for the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest will be different from the standards for the pine, oak, and gum forests of the South, but both sets of standards will include the Principles and Criteria.
(Click here to see an FSC brochure explaining their mission. Note this is a PDF file.)
The Council accredits independent third parties to certify that the management of any particular forest complies with all standards. Forest owners and managers can develop plans for tracts of timberland that fulfill the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council and apply for certification with one of the certifiers. The certifier reviews the management plan for the forest and conducts regular audits of operations on the ground, in the woods. Wood from these forests can be labeled as FSC Certified.
(Click here to see the numbers of Forest Management Certificates)
This system also follows the wood to its final product through a chain of custody. We have been "chain of custody" certified, since 1998, so that we can attach an FSC logo to our furniture built of certified wood. Once a year, an auditor from Scientific Certifications Systems comes to our shop. He reviews the system of tracking that we have set up. The auditor must be able to trace the wood in any product, tagged or invoiced as FSC certified, back to its original lumber invoice. The wood on that invoice must be noted as FSC certified. The company that issued that invoice has in turn been audited annually, and so on back to the forest — hence the "chain of custody".
* On very rare occasion (not once a year), we have had to buy a small amount of uncertified wood to stay on schedule or produce custom work. If it is important that your furniture be chain-of-custody certified, we will make sure that it is.
(Click to see the numbers of Chain of Custody Certificates)
(Click to see a copy of our Chain of Custody Certificate.)
Statements quoted in the media that "we are growing more wood than we are harvesting" and "there are more acres of forest today than there were in 1900" need to be subjected to some scrutiny. The measure taken to generate such statements is of tons of wood fiber per acre — not of forest health. Tons of wood fiber makes lots of paper, pulp, and particleboard, but everyone working fine wood knows that the quality of wood is declining. This is a symptom of declining forest health.
Please question where your wood comes from and support healthy forests with your purchases when you can.
For more information